One – The Start of the End
A broken sob caught his attention. Charlie turned to his right to see his mother cry into a pristine white handkerchief. Her tears endless, her sobs heart wrenching. She cried for her first-born child, Tony.
The one she loved more, he thought.
His father stood beside his mother, an arm wrapped around her shoulders, grounding her lest she disappear. Dark sunglasses covered his father’s face. Most assumed it was because of the blazing sun, the unrelenting sun rays found at the equator, but he knew his father cried too. The glasses hid swollen eyes, and tear stained cheeks. Charlie looked away from his father and tagged on his suit jacket. He couldn’t believe his mother had insisted he retain his suit in this blazing sun.
“We have to keep up appearances, Charlie,” his mother had insisted.
Her grief was hard to bear.
Damn, Charlie Dhali thought, letting a sigh escape.
His world was over. He stared at his brother’s casket and wondered at the rage brewing inside him. He should be grieving for Tony; instead, burning anger grew with every minute.
Charlie clenched his fists, closing his eyes as the priest recited the final rites and the funeral home attendants moved to remove flowers from the casket. The rage flamed inside as he watched Tony’s casket lowered to the ground.
He was angry with Tony. So angry, he wanted to scream but couldn’t. He couldn’t do much but stand with calm in this occasion. Not with his mother two feet away crying, her sobs tearing through him and his father. All their relatives and friends watched, waiting to see them crack as Tony was laid to rest.
Charlie wanted to scream in anger at the injustice that had taken his brother. His parents would force him to take on more responsibility, all because Tony Dhali couldn’t have the sense to stay away from trouble. Charlie felt a tear slide down his cheek. Life wasn’t fair.
“Look, that’s Hugh Kalahari’s daughter.”
The words drifted to her without trouble. Koya shook her head in amusement. Gossip was expected living in the Ndwaru Rd Estate. The estate was a mess of complicated relationships that supplied the gossip mongers with fresh fodder by the hour. Everyone knew everything about everyone.
“She must be back from college for the funeral. I heard she’s friends with that Dhali boy.”
“Well, it’s nice she is in college, but let’s hope it stays that way. Who knows what could happen if she pushes it with the Dhali boy.”
Koya gave the three women seated at a vegetable stall a hard look. They smiled and waved at her and she sighed. It was no use. The gossip would continue. She capitulated and offered a smile in return. The women lost interest and moved on to the next victim.
Koya increased her pace. She continued up the slight hill on the main estate road heading for the Dhali Manor at the top.
The Dhalis were the richest family on Ndwaru Rd. Isaac Dhali had made his money through foreign investments and real estate. He had built his precious wife a huge manor on the six acres of land he owned. The couple had two children: Tony and Charles Dhali.
Well, one now, Koya thought.
Two weeks ago, the Dhalis had lost Tony at a club shooting at the Ndwaru Rd. shopping center. Nobody knew the reason why Tony was shot, but the rumor mills were working on overdrive. Word was that Tony sold drugs; others said that Tony joined a gang and had pissed off the big boss.
Well, the speculation aside, her boyfriend, Charles, was having a hard time dealing with Tony’s death. Which made her depressed too because she truly loved Charles Dhali and hated to see him suffer. Her cell phone buzzed and she answered with a small smile when she saw the caller ID.
“I’m coming up the hill,” Koya said. “I needed to drop off documents at the chief’s place for my father.”
“You could let me pick you up,” Charlie complained. “We’re not fooling anyone, Koya. There is no point hiding our relationship.”
“At college, you may pick me up all you want, but not here,” Koya said. There was no need to give proof to the rumor mill.
Koya cleared the hill and took a right turn on to a tarmac road that would lead her to the Dhalis’ main gate.
“I’m at the front, you can come out now.”
“You’re exasperating,” Charlie said into his phone. “Give me two minutes to drive out. Don’t talk to the guards. I get jealous.”
“You’re so bossy,” Koya said with a laugh.
She ended the call, smiling to herself; she stopped right before she reached the gate. Putting her cell phone into her pocket, she hoped she was dressed appropriately for the evening. The plan was to hang out with friends before they all headed to university the day after tomorrow. At least there, she wouldn’t have to worry about what people said about her and Charlie.
Koya decided she would make it up to Charlie. The gates opened and a black jeep appeared. Charlie drove like a maniac. She took a cautious step back on the sidewalk as he stopped with a screech. Charlie leaned over to push open the passenger door. Koya held on to the door and stood taking in Charlie’s welcoming smile.
Charlie was handsome. Dark skin, beautiful dark eyes, strong jaw and the sexiest mouth she’d ever seen. Of course, she would never tell him her thoughts. His ego would only inflate higher. Charlie was born with a golden spoon in his mouth. His mother had reared him as one would take care of an egg. In return, Charlie had developed an ego that could piss off the entire world.
However, Charlie had a good heart. She loved him for that good heart.
“Are you getting in, or are you going to stare at me all night?” Charlie asked. “Come on, woman.”
Koya grinned and climbed on to the passenger seat. Charlie started driving off as she closed the door. She reached for the seat belt, struggling to put it on. Charlie stopped at the turn to help her snap it in before he stepped on the gas pedal and took off down the main road out of Desturi Estate.
“You should consider a chill pill when driving, Charlie,” Koya said, once they hit the first major road and had to slow down because of traffic. “Where are we headed?”
“Westlands,” Charlie answered, his tone curt. “Kim and Ashi are waiting at the club.”
“What’s wrong with you?” Koya asked, hating the tense tone in his voice. “Is it your mum?”
“She won’t get off my case,” Charlie said, bitterness colored his voice.
“Is it me?” Koya asked.
Ashley Dhali had changed of late. Charlie’s mother seemed to hate her now.
Koya frowned. “She hasn’t been very receptive to us being together.”
“I don’t care what she thinks,” Charlie said. “It’s my life and you’re in it, period. God I can’t wait to get back to Cuea. We can have peace and quiet.”
Catholic University of Eastern Africa, known as Cuea for short, was the university they all attended: her, Charlie, Kim and Ashi. Charlie and Kim were two years ahead. She and Ashi were in their second year. Koya worried about Charlie graduating first. It felt like their relationship would end.
“What’s really going on?” Koya asked after a while.
They were speeding on Waiyaki Way, headed to Westlands. One of their college friends had a club opening tonight. She knew asking questions before a night out was relationship suicide, but she couldn’t take not knowing anymore. Charlie had an uncontrollable anger raging through him. She needed to understand it.
“It’s nothing,” Charlie said.
He started to turn on the radio but she turned it off.
“I’ve had it,” Koya said. “I know you’re sad because of Tony’s death, but we can’t go on this way. Tell me what’s wrong, or I’m going to make your mother happy by walking away.”
“You’re kidding right now,” Charlie said, his eyes wide when she finished her tirade.
“I’m not,” Koya snapped.
Charlie pulled off the highway with one abrupt jerk and parked the car on the curb across ABC Place. He switched off the engine and stared out the windshield with a glare.
“My mother is sending me away with my father,” Charlie said. “My father is going to Taipei. I didn’t know how to tell you.”
To be continued…
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